Average 401k Fee at 0.45% in Recent TD Ameritrade Analysis
While most plan participants have no idea if or what they pay in 401k fees, new data shows a participant with the average U.S. 401k balance of $103,700 pays about $467 annually
With high 401k plan fees being the enemy of the workplace retirement saver, it’s always interesting to keep an eye on what the typical 401k plan participant is paying for the “privilege” of having the retirement account.
While most people know exactly what they pay for Netflix each month, many plan participants have no idea what (if any) fees are associated with their 401k.
This even though all fees are clearly disclosed in each plan’s literature or can be easily provided by the plan administrator.
A July 22 article on CNBC Make It cites a 2018 TD Ameritrade survey which found over a third of U.S. investors mistakenly think they don’t pay any fees on their account.
In reality, 95% pay fees associated with their 401k according to an analysis by TD Ameritrade and FeeX, a third-party online firm that analyzes the fees being paid in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
The average all-in cost of those fees is 0.45% of the total invested assets, per a recent analysis of data from those who used the 401k Fee Analyzer tool.
TD Ameritrade provided the data to CNBC Make It, which stated in the article that a participant with $103,700 invested in their 401k—the average 401k balance among Americans, would pay about $467 a year in fees.
Those expenses, of course, range from expense ratios—the actual cost of investments, such as mutual funds and ETFs—to plan administration fees covering costs such as record keeping, legal services, customer support and transaction processing.
The article goes on to note the biggest factors in the fees of a 401k are the size of the plan sponsor and the plan it uses. The average total plan fees range from 0.37% for the largest plans to 1.42% for the smallest plans.
It’s when fees hit 2% or more in a small plan that participants think about running for the hills, as even with the tax benefits and an employer match, the high fee makes investing prohibitively expensive and eats a big hole in participant retirement balances, regardless of the services that are offered at that fee level.